I work for a small company of ~150 people that moved to a partial open office plan about six months ago. I agreed to this under the caveat that it was only a test and I could move back if needed, but now I find it difficult to broach the subject. The person with whom I made this verbal agreement has since been fired. My immediate superior works remotely and has never seen the office, and the next highest position is the CEO himself. Furthermore, if I do move to a different part of the building everyone will surely take it as I am unhappy being around them, which isn't necessarily the case.

My role requires a lot of patience, focus, reading and thinking. Now I feel like a babysitter: "No, don't take that. No, use your inside voice. No, cover your mouth when you cough. No, turn your music down for now. No, wait your turn for my help."

  • You might need to work on that patience part. – paparazzo Jan 24 '18 at 0:52
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    I'm sorry, but having people try to take things from my desk while I'm sitting there, yelling jokes across the room, turning in my direction to cough on me, refusing to use headphones when listening to music or demanding that I help them right now every day for six months really does wear on my patience. I also sit between a freight lift and a CNC mill and that alone is driving me mad. – grodon_smeelak Jan 24 '18 at 2:15
  • "turning in my direction to cough on me" that is bulling. – nicolascolman Jan 24 '18 at 12:49
  • if I do move to a different part of the building everyone will surely take it as I am unhappy being around them - I wouldn't think that at all, certainly people who know you enough to care would know that you need the peace and quiet to concentrate and it is nothing personal. – Ohad Schneider Jan 30 at 19:19

A lot of companies are moving towards an open office, and I have faced some of the problems you have mentioned. It is simply too loud for me as well to work effectively. You may talk to someone about your situation, but I doubt it will make the company as a whole go back to the previous settings. Lots of people will lesser work load and different concentration cycles may actually be enjoying it. That being said, there are a few tips and tricks which can be used

Try to find a quiet corner. Just mention that your space is too noisy and you would like to move to be able to better focus on the job. Even open office plans will have corners or a last row or a space behind a pillar where you are less visible. If you don't want to be direct, just mention that the noise from the freight lift and the CNC mill disturb you and it will be helpful if you are moved around.

Also try to get some good noise cancelling headphones. I have not tried them but heard they are pretty good.

For people listening to music - three things can work here:

  1. Tell them politely that it is disturbing and they should use a headphone.
  2. Find their manager and complain that it disturbs you.
  3. This one works for me: sit close to some managers. I understand your manager is remote. But if there are other senior people, get a space close to them. People are more careful around management and are less likely to be noisy around them. Chances are high that if they are noisy, managers would point it out and get the required silence on the floor.

About people demanding your time right now:

This is totally up to you. You can handle it multiple ways, the trick is to be consistent. One of my peers had a habit of asking people to book a slot into his calendar. He wasn't well liked, but every one knew if you need his time, you need to book his diary.
Another one would send back the person, with the comment "I have something urgent going on right now, I will get back to you." He would then go to the person's desk when he was free to help the other person.

Other colleagues simply would not pick up their phone when they were not free.

The point is, you are not obliged to answer every one when they demand it.
Make it a system where you rank the request per priority and deal with it. Over time, people will get used to your system. (Just dont try it on your boss, he might get annoyed). As long as you are polite and firm, people will get used to your working style and bother you less.

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    sit close to some managers Smart. – user8036 Jan 24 '18 at 10:09
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    Try 4: get out of the company and find a workplace that suits you. – TomTom Jan 24 '18 at 17:52
  • "Lots of people will lesser work load and different concentration cycles may actually be enjoying it" - translation: open office is great if you don't have a lot of work, the little work you do have doesn't require much concentration, and your main goal at work is to socialize and have fun (rather than, you know, work). – Ohad Schneider Jan 30 at 19:15

You agreed with someone about the caveat. So go talk to that someone. If it was your immediate supervisor, it's not like they need to see the office in order to believe you.

Hey, remember how we said that I'd try the open office and see if it would work for me? I have tried, and it simply isn't working well. In order to work well, I need to be able to focus, read, and think. There are so many distractions, both of people talking around me, and people talking to me, that it is reducing my productivity. I like my co-workers and certainly don't want to avoid them. But I need access to a quiet place to work, so that I can do good work.

This may or may not work. A lot of management seems to be fine with reduced productivity in exchange for reduced costs in office space.

  • I should have mentioned this: the "someone" with whom I agreed was fired from the company several months ago. – grodon_smeelak Jan 24 '18 at 1:42
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    Simply modify the first sentence: "Some months ago before I moved, I spoke to "someone" about only moving as a trial and whether I'd have the option to move back if it wasn't working" – Tas Jan 24 '18 at 2:33

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